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Preset Levels: Entry-Level, Performance, And Extreme

Meet The 2012 Graphics Charts: How We're Testing This Year

Three Separate Preset Levels Ensure a Fair Evaluation

In order to assess a broad spectrum of graphics cards, we also expanded our benchmark-based performance index by adding a whole category. Starting at the bottom, the “Entry-Level” segment for budget-oriented cards comes first. The levels of resolution, image quality, and performance that can be expected from such cards are exemplified by the Radeon HD 6790 and the GeForce GTX 550 Ti. Two typical cards you'll find in the “Performance” category are the GeForce GTX 560 Ti and Radeon HD 6950. Finally, the “Extreme” category contains graphics cards like the Radeon HD 7950 and the GeForce GTX 580. Yes, the GTX 680 is coming as well, but we didn't get it in time for this first round of testing.

We raised the bar for each of the performance categories, as we've already seen new boards based on 28 nm GPUs up the ante significantly for graphics performance. A score of 100% in a category means that the card fully achieves the requirements of that specific segment. Note that performance (and the associated score) can vary from game to game and across driver versions. We also tried to choose the benchmarks in a way that doesn't favor either GPU vendor. We're confident that our benchmark selection results in a fair performance assessment of a particular graphics card.

Graphic Settings
1280x720 (720p)
-Minimal to mid-level quality settings
-No anti-aliasing
  -Medium anisotropic filtering
  -No ambient occlusion
  -Minimum tessellation depth
  -Normal texture quality
1920x1080 (1080p)
-High quality settings
  -Simple to mid-level anti-aliasing
  -Maximum anisotropic filtering
  -Medium tessellation depth
  -High texture quality, but no HD textures
-Maximum quality settings
  -Maximum anti-aliasing level (w/o driver tweaks)
  -Maximum anisotropic filtering
  -Maximum tessellation depth
  -Maximum texture quality, HD textures

Let's turn now to a discussion of the different benchmarks we're using in 2012.

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